This week on the reserve has been another wet one, but a lucky couple of visitors yesterday (15 November) saw two marsh harriers and a bittern down at Joist Fen, along with four great white egrets. A visitor today (16 November has reported four bearded tits from this area too, so keep an ear open if you venture down the western end of the reserve for their ‘pinging’ calls coming from the reedbeds. And one of our volunteers has just walked in and told us he has heard the bearded tits today and also good good views of a stoat down at New Fen, near the viewpoint.

Around dusk should be the best time to look for marsh harriers as they come in to roost in the reedbeds, often after flying around together for a while and then settling in the same spot night after night! It’s at this time you might also see smaller birds coming in to roost, such as reed bunting in good numbers and a corvid roost in the trees of East Wood. Yesterday I saw a few thousand jackdaw and carrion crow swirling and wheeling around in the air above the trees before settling down to noisy chatter until dark. The sound of the birds in an otherwise quiet winter landscape is what makes it so enjoyable- the sound seems to carry quite far on chilly autumn and winter evenings.

If you happen to be leaving the reserve as it begins to get dark, listen out for tawny owls calling from within the woods lining the entrance track- they have been quite vocal lately. It’s quite possible during an evening visit that you may see one or more barn owls too, hunting over the reedbeds and the Washland. Also at the Washland this week have been up to three redshank, wading through the flooded edges, two whooper swans in the daytime (and up to 250 in the overnight roost!) and up to three stonechat sitting on vegetation at the edge of the riverbank footpath. There is likely to be several more stonechat than this, but only one or two pop up at once- looking for insect food such as caterpillars- where they’ll then flutter down to the ground to feed.

  Photo credit: A hunting barn owl by David Mackey

Two water pipit were seen on 9 November on the Washland, and kingfisher can be seen daily zipping along the river itself. Up to three little grebe have been seen in the river on 9 November, and one on 14 November- though they are easily overlooked because they spend so long underwater, diving for food and are often only noticeable if you stay in one place for a while!

At the Visitor Centre we have had a variety of small birds at the feeders- including several siskin, a great spotted woodpecker as well as the odd chaffinch, house sparrow and reed bunting. Marsh tits and long-tailed tits are regular visitors too.

Tomorrow (17 October) we have an organised event on with a couple of spaces left if you are interested- it involves a guided walk in the afternoon down to Joist Fen, where a member of the reserve team will collect you and take you to a spot not normally open to the public, to assist them with the annual harrier roost count. There should be plenty of marsh harriers and if we are lucky, even the odd short-eared owl, hen harrier, barn owl, peregrine or merlin too. It’s an opportunity to learn a bit more about how we carry out the surveys here, and afterwards they’ll be a lift back to the Visitor Centre in our off-road vehicle. Find more information about the event here:

I hope this update has been useful and that you can make it down to us for a visit soon- the weather looks dry in the week ahead and with colder mornings on 18 and 19 November these could be good for looking for bearded tits.